AT&T cuts churn rate; Activates 3.2 million iPhones; Touts network upgrades

AT&T's bet on the iPhone continues to work well. The company reported a better-than-expected third quarter, delivered post paid churn of 1.

AT&T's bet on the iPhone continues to work well. The company reported a better-than-expected third quarter, delivered post paid churn of 1.17 percent (a low for AT&T), activated 3.2 million iPhones and boosted data revenue by 33.6 percent.

The telecom giant on Thursday delivered net income of $3.2 billion, or 54 cents  a share, on revenue of $30.9 billion, down from $31.3 billion a year ago. Wall Street was expecting earnings of 50 cents a share. If you're an AT&T customer you may be more interested in AT&T's update on its infrastructure improvements. The company added that dropped calls declined by 12 percent.

As usual, AT&T was powered by its wireless unit, which represents 44 percent of total sales. Among the key wireless data points (statement, financial supplement, quarterly overview, presentation):

  • AT&T added 2 million wireless subscribers in the third quarter. Post paid net adds were 1.4 million.
  • Total churn for the quarter was 1.43 percent, down from 1.69 percent a year ago. Postpaid churn was 1.17 percent, down from 1.22 percent. The takeaway: You may gripe about AT&T, but you don't leave.
  • iPhone activations were 3.2 million, the largest quarterly activation total to date. Of those activations, 40 percent of them were new to AT&T. The telecom giant's success with the iPhone isn't all that surprising given Apple's blowout quarter.
  • Wireless data revenue was $3.6 billion, up 33.6 percent from a year ago.

Among other key items:

  • AT&T said it added 240,000 U-verse TV subscribers and now has a total of 1.8 million. The company added 252,000 U-verse broadband subscribers. Most TV subscribers also get broadband in a bundle.
  • Revenue from consumer IP-based services were up 32.1 percent.
  • The company had free cash flow of $13.9 billion for the first nine months of the year, up from $7.9 billion for the same period a year ago.

On its earnings conference call, AT&T will spend most of the time talking about its wireless business. AT&T said that it is making good progress updating its infrastructure and adding devices such as e-books, personal navigation devices and netbooks.

AT&T also provided an update on its infrastructure upgrades.

And more on the upgrades:

And finally it's worth noting AT&T's enterprise business---if only because the telecom giant barely gives it a passing mention any more. The revenue declines in the quarter tell the tale: